The term ‘broad-spectrum’ is used to describe a sunscreen or sunblock that provides protection for our skin against both UVA and UVB rays, but not all UV rays are created equal,” she explains, adding that there are actually three types of rays produced by the sun: UVA, UVB and UVC. “The ‘Cs’ are short and do not penetrate our atmosphere, but, of the other two forms, UVB is what we hear most about as the chief culprit behind sunburn and visible damage from a day at the beach,” she says. “UVA are more stealth and intense, more prevalent and penetrate all clouds, fog even glass.
In a survey to identify potential misperceptions about sunscreen labeling conducted on almost 500 fairgoers at the Minnesota State Fair, researchers found that only 12 percent of people correctly answered that SPF value specifies protection for ultraviolet (UV) B rays and only 30 percent correctly identified that “broad-spectrum” means that the sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.
Ranking even lower on the tally: Ten-percent of individuals surveyed knew that sunscreens labeled “baby safe” and “natural/organic” have no standard criteria for these labeling claims, while almost half of respondents also incorrectly assumed that “dermatologist-recommended” or “clinically proven” meant that the sunscreen was endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
But, as the society reported, it’s not all doom, gloom and lack of understanding when it comes to sun safety: “The findings also revealed that prior sunscreen counseling or a single dermatologist visit were two of the factors linked to improved sunscreen knowledge— highlighting physicians’ impact on sunscreen understanding and supporting continued public education efforts on sun protection.